Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Phyllis Zimbler Miller
This is the very first time I’ve written a review for a book that the author (hello Phyllis…and thank you!) actually sent to me. So, you know, my palms are a little sweaty. I think I have stage fright. I was going to be all formal, because I thought if someone actually went out of their way to send me their book, the least I could do was put some thought and structure into my review. But, seeing as how I’m the queen of informality, and this is my blog, why change now? And besides, I do put thought into my posts (really, I swear), it may just not always look like I do.
So I sat down with Mrs. Lieutenant late Saturday afternoon. This isn’t a book I would have chosen at the bookstore, because honestly, I’m not all that into the Army. And, I must confess I expected something different. For some reason I thought the men would all go to Vietnam in the course of the book. And I was prepared to bawl my eyes out about that. And then I was going to hunt down Lisa and blame my book-induced depression on her, because she gave my name to the author in the first place. But luckily, none of that had to happen. The book takes place entirely in the States, as the four husbands are in officer training at Fort Knox. And although everything isn't all happy-happy, no combat was waged in the pages of the book. So whew, that was a relief… because I really don’t like to read a book with one hand on the book and the other clutching a kleenex. And Hamburger looks at me funny when I cry over books.
I read this book straight through. I finished around midnight, somewhat delayed because I got distracted by a cute movie on tv about two brothers who play a game that turns into real life, complete with their house hurtling through space and getting attacked by lizard aliens. Seriously.
Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah…I read the book in one evening. Because I wanted to know what happened to all of the characters. Which was a surprise, since like I said, I wouldn’t normally pick up a book about Army life, especially Army life during the Vietnam War. I took a history class in college called military strategy (I needed a class in my major, and I was low priority that quarter), and I swear that class was so deadly boring it put me off reading anything that faintly touches on war forever. Luckily, war is not what this book is all about (although each chapter begins with a blurb about what was going with the war at that time).
Mrs. Lieutenant is a story of four women, all married to Army officers during the Vietnam War. Sharon is Jewish, and from the North. Donna is Puerto Rican, and grew up as an Army brat, but the transition from enlisted to officer family is baffling for her. Wendy is a black Southerner, the beloved sheltered child of a physician. Kim is from the South, too, but she’s white and uncomfortable with everyone else, because they’re not white Southerners. These four women, from very different backgrounds and bringing with them very different life experiences, arrive at Fort Knox and find themselves feeling their way through their initiation into Army life together. They are forced to step outside of their comfort zones and interact with people they would never have chosen to befriend. I really enjoyed getting to know all four women and the glimpse into what seems like the highly dictated life of an officer’s wife.
Phyllis Zimbler Miller was a Mrs. Lieutenant and her book reads almost like a diary. I have a sneaking suspicion that she drew heavily on her own experiences as an Army wife for many of the scenes in the book. Which makes me wonder why the choice of a fiction novel that reads like non-fiction, as opposed to a straight memoir? Did the author want the freedom to show the lives of other women? I felt like the author was more connected to Sharon than the other women…she had a bit more depth than the other characters. I also have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more books about Sharon’s experiences as an Army wife, since the cover states that this is a Sharon Gold novel.
So thanks again to Phyllis Zimbler Miller for sending me her book. I enjoyed reading it and stepping out of my own comfort zone to read a book I normally wouldn't have looked twice at.